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Famous women

Elizabeth Fry

Elizabeth FryElizabeth Fry Elizabeth Fry (1780–1845) was an English Quaker who dedicated much of her adult life to helping those in need. A compassionate and brave campaigner, she became well known for her fight to improve the conditions of women prisoners in the early 19th century. Her pioneering work inspired other women to play a fuller role in society, and her ideas for reforms in prisons, asylums and elsewhere continued to be influential long after her death.


Quakers worshipping in London in 1809Quakers worshipping in London in 1809

Early life

Elizabeth Fry was born on 21st May 1780 into a wealthy family in Norwich, England, the third of 13 children. Her parents, John and Catherine Gurney, were both Quakers, members of the Religious Society of Friends, a Christian group that placed importance on a personal relationship with God. The Quakers were actively involved in many social issues, such as the campaign to end the slave trade. Catherine often took her daughter with her when she visited the poor and the sick locally. Catherine died when Elizabeth was only 12 years old, leaving the older children to bring up their younger brothers and sisters.


Newgate Prison

Since 2002, Elizabeth has been pictured on the Bank of England £5 note. She is shown reading to prisoners at Newgate Prison.

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